.

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

I don't tweet. I don't text. But I do have a YouTube video for my book. I may be old, but I'm not dead.

YouTube videos are a basic part of modern book promotion. I prefer to communicate with words on paper or on electronic pages and have been reluctant to go on camera, so I paid a "preacher" to perform for me.

I've long been a fan of evangelical doomsayers and bible thumpers. My first enthrallment occurred in San Francisco in 1961. The preacher sung-shouted, "If the good Lawd tells you not to wash your fee-it, you had bettah keep your fee-it dur-tee, my brothers!"

My hired preacher says he usually reads the Bible but has discovered another "good book" -- MINE. He says it might even save your life. (Watch the video to learn how.)

If you like the video, you'll probably like
the book. It's available as a hardcover, paperback and e-book. Tell one. Tell all. Praise the Lord, and please praise the book. Amen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fwQh5cBWBI&feature=colike

This is the second "take" of the video and corrects two errors from the first one. Unfortunately, this time the preacher forgot to mention my name -- which is in the first version. It's annoying, but not a sin.

I learned with books -- and with wedding invitations and answering machine announcements -- that any time a correction is made, other errors are often created, so I decided to let it go.

Marilyn and I got engaged back in 1971, slightly after Brontosauruses stopped stomping on the Earth. Her cousin Manny was a printer, and he offered us free invi­tations as a present. Unfortunately, they were printed with my father’s given name -- that few people would recognize -- in­stead of his well-known nickname. When Manny reprinted them, he got Pop’s name right, but he printed the wrong year.

We didn’t want to ask Manny for a third freebie or insult him by taking our business elsewhere. (He kept a gun strapped to his ankle and I used to refer to him as Mafia Manny although I had no real knowledge that he was in the mob.) The wedding date was rapidly approaching, so my future mother-in-law used a pen to correct the year on each invi­tation. It wasn’t elegant -- in fact, it looked like shit -- but it was definitely a rare collector’s item.

The imperfect video is neither rare nor a collector's item, and I don't think it looks like shit. Previewers said it's funny, and that's what I wanted it to be.

Please check it out. If you like it, please pass the word. Thanks.

BTW, the imperfect invitation was just one of many fuckups at our wedding. The full story is in the book.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

A Tale of two IPOs

In 2010 pay-to-publish company Lulu.com hoped to do an IPO (initial public offering), selling $50 million in stock to pay off debts. On this blog, I've pointed out that the company's sloppy printing, bad customer service, bad website, uncompetititively high prices and strong competitors were not indicators of future success with either the IPO or business in general.

Lulu founder Bob Young said, “We publish a huge number of really bad books.” If Bob knows they're really bad books, he shouldn't publish them! Bob also misspelled "misspell" and confused "less" and "fewer." A publisher should know better.

Lulu is based in North Carolina but planned to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, because that would be less expensive than going public in the USA.

Lulu reduced its  proposed stock price to about $7 per share, from $8 to $9.50 each -- but the bargain price was still too high to impress potential investors. Lulu lost $1.9 million on sales of $32.6 million the year before the IPO.

Lulu's stock underwriters stated, “Due to current market conditions, at this time Lulu Ltd. has decided to postpone the financing until further notice.” (According to NewObserver.com, Lulu "will continue to work on expanding the company and try to revive IPO plans within 12 months, Young said. But it could be even sooner if the stock market cooperates."


Two years later, market conditions seem to have improved considerably -- but Lulu's potential has not.


Despite a name that might imply that it prints books, California-based CafePress is not a direct competitor of Lulu. It provides -- on demand -- a wide range of user-designed products including t-shirts, mugs, iPad cases, business cards, tote bags and much more.

The company says that about 135,000 new designs are added each week, it ships over 6 million products annually, and has over 11 million unique visitors to its website each month.

From 2010 to 2011, company sales rose 37% to $175.5 million.

CafePress went public yesterday and sold 4.5 million shares in its IPO at $19 each, above its expected price of between $16 and $18 apiece. Market value was about $322.6 million.

Lulu has a lot to learn if it wants to go public, or stay in business.


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Copyright Office can now accept e-books (sort of)

A copyright determines who has the right to copy what you write.

Millions of words have been written on the sub­­ject, and I see no reason to add a million more. The quick explanation is that nobody has the right to copy your words without permission until 70 years after you die. If you copy this blog post 60 years after I die, with­­out permission from me or my agent or estate, I can come back and sue you. You should be safe around 2102. Un­­til then, these words are mine!
It is commonly believed that a creative work must be registered with the government to be protected by copyright. That’s not true. Your precious work is legally protected from copycats from the moment of creation without your having to fill out any forms or having to pay even one penny to the Feds. Your work is copyrighted even if you don’t put the © copyright symbol on it.
However, there are still advantages to going through a formal copyright registration, particularly if you end up suing for copyright infringement.
Copyright is a form of protection, grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture, fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a device. That means that what you put on a website or blog is copyrighted.
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, discoveries, systems, or meth­ods of operation, although it may protect the way they are expressed.
Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one entity and distinguishing them from those of others. A book’s title can’t be copyrighted, but it can sometimes be protected as a trademark.
Copyright registration is voluntary. Many people choose to register their works because they want to have the facts of their copyright as a public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. If registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. Registration within 90 days gives you the most protection.
  • The practice of mailing a copy of your own work to your­self is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding this type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration. It probably won’t be useful in a lawsuit because it is so easily faked by mailing an empty envelope and inserting a document later.
The United States has copyright relations with most countries and most countries honor others’ citizens’ copyrights.
The U.S. Copyright Office changed its fees in 2009. Thanks to cost savings achieved through increased office automation, some fees remained the same or decreased. Other fees—mostly for services requiring manual labor—went up.
  • The fee for filing a copyright application online, using the new electronic Copyright Office (eCO), is just $35. Self-publishing companies often charge much more to get a copyright. CrossBooks charges $204. Schiel & Denver charges $250!
It takes less than 15 minutes to register online. The fee is $50 if you register with a paper application.

More than 50 percent of copyright claims are now being submitted through eCO. The waiting time to receive certificates is much shorter for users of eCO than for those who submit paper applications.

In addition to a lower filing fee and the fastest processing time, advantages of electronic filing include the ability to track the status of claims online, to pay by credit or debit card, and to upload some creative works electronically.

Whether you register online or on paper, the Library of Congress still requires a real book to be sent in (except for e-books that don’t exist on paper).
You must send what the Library calls the “best edition” of your work. The “best edition” is determined based on expected durability, not luxury. For example, if you publish two hardbound versions of a book, one a trade edition printed on acid-free paper and the other a specially bound edition printed on average paper, the first will be the best edition because the type of paper is more important than the binding.

If you file your application online using eCO eService, you may pay by credit card. Credit cards are not accepted for registration through the mail, but may be used for registrations that are filed in person in the Copyright Office in Washington.

If you register within five years of publication, and have to sue someone for copyright violation, a court should recognize the validity of the copyright and the facts on the certificate. If you register within three months of publication, you can sue for statutory damages and attorney's fee. Later registration may limit your payment to the actual loss—which could be three dollars.

You may register unpublished works as a collection on one application, with one title for the entire collection. It is not necessary to list the individual titles in your collection. Published works may be registered as a collection only if they were actually first published as a collection.

There is no legal requirement that the author be identified by his or her real name on the application form. If filing under a pen name, check the “Pseudonymous” box when giving information about the author.

When you register your claim to copyright a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you are making a public record. All the information you provide on your copyright registration is available to the public and will be on the Internet.

The length of time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies depending on the number of applications the Office is handling at the time of submission and any questions associated with the application. Ninety percent of online filers should receive a certificate of registration within six months of submission. A third should receive a certificate within ten weeks of submission.
Regardless of the time needed to issue a certificate, the effective date of registration is the day the Copyright Office receives a complete submission in acceptable form. You do not need to wait for a certificate to publish your book.

By custom (not by law), if you publish a book during the last three or four months of the year, you can use a copyright date of the next year. This makes the book seem to be a year fresher as it ages. However, DON’T register it until the year printed in the book.
You may make a new copyright registration for a book if you make “substantial and creative” changes. Simply making spelling corrections throughout a book would not warrant a new registration, but adding another chapter would.
Copyrighting ebooks

Originally, if you wanted to copyright a book that existed only in electronic form, you had to print out the text and submit the printed material to Washington. Now the Copyright Office can accept uploaded Word documents or PDFs (but not "retail" fomats like EPUB). A copyright protects content, regardless of its format.
Copyright Office website: www.copyright.gov
Electronic Copyright Office: www.copyright.gov/eco/notice.html 
Physical Address:
U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
Phone: 202-707-3000




NOTE: I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. THIS SUMMARY IS BE­LIEVED TO BE ACCURATE, BUT BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING BASED ON WHAT YOU READ HERE, YOU CAN ASK A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY OR THE COPYRIGHT OFFICE.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There's no justification for bad justification


When I began my little publishing company in 2008, I had a lot to learn, so I bought about 40 books about publishing.

Many of the books about self-publishing were independently self-published or published by self-publishing companies. Many of them were extremely ugly.

They had terrible typography.

The worst sin was bad justification.

Type is said to be "justified" (or  "full-justified") when all of the lines of type in a paragraph (except for the first line if indented, and the last line) are the same width, and extend from the left margin to the right margin.
Examples of full,  flush-left, and flush-right justification
Some self-publishers are content to merely dump words onto pages and rely on their software to arrange the words properly.

That's not enough.

A book needs a human touch.
You must CAREFULLY examine each line so you can improve justification by changing words and hyphenation, and maybe alter the spaces between letters and words.
Failure to hyphenate justified text leads to ugly books. Don't be lazy.
It's a lot of work and takes a lot of time to do it right -- but it's the right way to produce a book. There's no easy way. There's no shortcut. You must invest the time to go line-by-line, over and over again, or your book will look like crap.

Bad justification is one of the most obvious signs of amateur publishing. Every book has some problems with justification. Self-publishers seem to have many more problems with justification than professionals do -- and the self-pubbers may not even know that they goofed.

A self-publisher has an extra burden to produce a high-quality product. Self-pubbed books are initially suspect and must prove their legitimacy, and a bad self-pubbed book reflects badly on other self-publishers. Ironically, the ugliest and worst-written book I’ve ever seen tries to give advice to self-publishers. It was apparently never edited, or checked by   publishing service that produced it.

The limitations of the Internet and ebooks create the need for typographic compromises. As people get used to typographic abominations in electronic text formats, those abominations may become more acceptable in print. However, just because you can get away with ugliness, it doesn’t mean you should.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stop using ancient cliches


I recently read an article about a rock star. She has a mansion equipped with a Jacuzzi and two flat-screen TVs.

BFD.

I'm not a rock star, or one of the one per cent, and I have eight flat TVs. I even have both indoor and outdoor bubble tubs (but not Jacuzzi-brand bubble tubs).

Flat screen TVs have been around for years. They are no longer rare, expensive or status symbols. They are not worth mentioning.

What is "the size of a Volkswagen?"
Also, it's time to stop describing things as "the size of a Volkswagen." That comparison may have made sense in the 1950s when the only VW was the Beetle, but VeeDubs have been made in many sizes, and many cars are smaller than the Beetle.

Is it bigger than one of these?
Another size cliche relates to breadboxes. "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" was a question often asked by Steve Allen on the TV game show What's My Line? 

Michael Desmond recently wrote that a Fujitsu scanner is "about the size of a breadbox."

Breadboxes were common in 1955-era kitchens, and most people back then knew they were big enough to hold two loaves of bread. In 2012, many people have never even seen a breadbox (but they are available at Target).

Also, be careful if you refer to "the turn of the century." Most uses seem to refer to the 1900 changeover, but we had a much more recent turn of the century.

(photo of old Beetle is from Robert Couse-Baker. VW van photo is from AutoEvolution.com. TV pix are from Panasonic. Bread box is from Tar-zjay. Thanks.)

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Should a writer also be a bookseller? Probably

Credit card reader for smartphones, from Square.
You can get one for FREE.
I've written that writers can't be too timid to sell their own books. I was using "sell" as an informal and perhaps more forceful synonym for "market" or "promote."

However, sometimes a writer should be involved in the actual selling transaction and exchange physical books for money.

(The following is from my now-being-updated Self-Publish Your Book Without Losing Your Shirt. Please don't order the version now on sale.)

On a 300-page, $18 book sold from a self-publishing company’s website, you’ll probably make 50% ($9).

Expect few sales, because of limited site traffic. When your publisher sells through Amazon.com and other booksellers, you’ll probably collect a measly 10% ($1.80).

If you are an independent self-publisher selling that $18 book through an online bookseller, you can make about $10. While this is better than what you could get by using a traditional publisher or a self-publishing company, there are ways to make more money.

You can probably buy books for $9 each from your self-publishing company. If you sell directly to readers, you keep what would normally go to the booksellers. You end up with $9 of the $18—if you can get your customers to pay for shipping, as they often do with Amazon or B&N.

HOWEVER, if you buy books right from Lightning Source, you’ll pay $4.80 plus shipping, and keep about $12 from the $18. The cost from CreateSpace is $4.45, so you can keep a bit more.

Even if you discount the price by a few dollars or pay for shipping to customers, you could still make more than you normally would, and you’ll get paid immediately.
 There are several ways to reach customers directly. They don’t apply to every book and they probably should not replace Amazon and B&N, but they could be a supplement.
  • Sell from your websites and blogs.
  • Sell during or after speeches.
  • Sell at flea markets.
  • Sell to friends, neighbors and business associates.
  • Sell at trade shows and conventions.
  • Sell at book fairs, craft fairs, festivals or events that tie in with your subject, such as boat shows or auto races.
  • Ring doorbells (just kidding).

Writer/blogger Sonia Marsh said, “Known experts should self-publish. Generally, they get $20,000 per speaking gig and sell 700 copies of a book after the gig.” I have no idea where she got her data. But even if her numbers are inflated ten times, the money is still impressive for an hour’s work. 

If you are going to sell, you’d better be prepared to accept credit cards. Some in-person purchasers may pay cash, and you may gamble by accepting checks or a promise for future payment, but most book sales are done with credit cards.

You need a merchant account. You can get one from a bank, warehouse club or merchant service provider. You will probably pay the company between 2% and 5% of each transaction. “Non-swiped” transactions, where you don’t actually see the card, cost extra; and there may be other fees.

For advice on accepting cards and evaluations of service companies, see http://www.100best-merchant-accounts.com/.

It’s also possible to process online sales by accepting payments through PayPal. It may be less expensive than credit cards, but some people don’t like PayPal.

You will need a terminal or PC software. You can get a wireless terminal for use where there is no phone connection from http://www.merchantexpress.com/. The company can even enable you to use a laptop for wireless authorizations.

Square offers a particularly innovative system for processing credit card sales. It’s a small FREE card reader for smartphones (shown up above) combined with credit card processing with fast funds availability and low fees. See http:///www.square.com

BAD NEWS: If you sell in-person, you’ll probably have to collect and remit sales tax. It’s an ISPITA if you sell in several states.

GOOD NEWS: Many thousands of books reach readers without booksellers. They are distributed—sometimes for free—by entities that want information or opinions circulated. These “special sales” can generate high profits, with no risk of returns.

A book you’ve already written may be perfect for use by an association, corporation, government, charity, foundation, university or a political party. Perhaps a book you’ve written needs just slight changes and perhaps a new title and cover to become perfect. Maybe the information in your book is fine, but the book needs a new point of view or emphasis to let you make a deal.

If you want to pursue the special sales market, get a copy of Brian Jud’s How to Make Real Money Selling Books. It includes a huge number of possible purchasers, pus step-by-step instructions for making a sale.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lightning Source will soon print books in Ohio and New Jersey

(from a recent press release)

Ingram Content Group licenses EPAC Technologies book manufacturing technology and expands Lightning Source operations

NASHVILLE, TN – Ingram Content Group today announced a licensing agreement with EPAC Technologies Inc. and the acquisition of assets of two EPAC print facilities in the U.S. plus a technology development and support group in Germany to expand its Lightning Source worldwide print-on-demand operation.

“By combining EPAC’s groundbreaking digital book manufacturing technologies with our years of print experience, Ingram will take the promise of print-on-demand to the next level,” said John R. Ingram, Chairman of the Board, Ingram Content Group. “We believe that print on demand is a growing part of the future of the physical book. As more publishers invest in new ways to get content to readers, this transaction will allow Ingram to serve more publishers with the digital print solutions they need today and tomorrow.”

Through the licensing of these technologies and the acquisition of two print facilities, one in Ohio and one in New Jersey, Ingram gains new capabilities to enhance its current proprietary print-on-demand solution. In addition, it will grow the universe of publisher titles and print volume eligible for digital manufacturing.

“Through Ingram, publishers can access the only globally networked print and digital distribution solution directly linked to market channels,” said David “Skip” Prichard, President and CEO, Ingram Content Group. “This expansion of our leading print-on-demand solution will ultimately help bring more books to more readers around the world by manufacturing content closer to the end user. This is a major advantage for publishers today as they navigate the shifting p and e market.”

Today, Ingram Lightning Source North American facilities include its headquarters in La Vergne, Tennessee, and a plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Worldwide locations include an operation central to London in Milton Keynes, UK; Melbourne, Australia; and a joint-venture facility in Maurepas, France, with Hachette Book Group. In addition, Lightning Source has alliances with leading print-on-demand providers in both Brazil and Germany.

---
The EPAC website says:
ePAC delivers proprietary digital technology that streamlines the way documents are managed, produced, and distributed. By integrating ePAC's proprietary, digital workflow technology with the latest advances in digital printing, document management, and information systems, ePAC has become a leading provider of mission-critical, advanced printing and logistics solutions for Fortune 100 technology companies.

The ePAC digital workflow features superior information technology (IT) and a digital archive to provide customers with real-time access to documents and essential data. ePAC prints and delivers customer materials ten times faster than traditional printers and at a significant reduction in cost, eliminating the challenges associated with conventional printing. ePAC enables customers to save time and money as well as gain more control over their entire document management and printing process.

By providing customized end-to-end solutions, from multiple language technical documentation printing and global digital document management to fulfillment and distribution, ePAC delivers the technology, infrastructure, and expertise to help you win in the global marketplace.

----

Snarks:
 (1) Will any of this mean that LS won't wrap one publisher's cover around another publisher's book block?
(2) Will any of this mean that LS will no longer print covers that are off-color or skewed?
(3) Will any of this help LS to provide economical color printing?
(4) There are lots of readers in the northeastern United States, but does LS really need printing plants in three adjacent northeast states, and four in the east? I'm in CT and already receive next-day delivery of "ground" shipments from LS in PA. A plant in NJ won't speed that up. Maybe LS needs a facility in California or Mexico.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Lulu's big ego just got bigger

The Lulu search robot thinks I wrote a book about Jesus.
The robot is wrong. Unlike Google, Lulu doesn't understand quote marks.

Lulu.com charges more for its products and services than other pay-to-publish companies, and publishes a huge number of books -- and still manages to lose money. Two years ago it cancelled a planned IPO.

Apparently Lulu is trying to get better and sent out the following press release a few days ago. Naturally, I had to add a few snarkisms.

RALEIGH, N.C., Mar 20, 2012 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- Lulu.com, the leader [says who?] in self-publishing, launched a new ecommerce platform today along with major site upgrades [The new site looks like the old site.] that will give authors and readers the absolute best [says who?] self-publishing experience for buying and selling books in any format across the globe.

Powered by leading ecommerce platform provider Elastic Path, the upgrades are designed to maximize author agility [What the hell does that mean?] in a rapidly changing publishing industry and ensure that readers can easily find remarkable works anywhere in the world including the places they already shop like Amazon.com, the iBookstore(SM), and Barnes and Noble's NOOK(R) Bookstore. [ (1) I can't imagine why anyone would use Lulu to buy books sold by Amazon or B&N. (2) Lulu's search robot still shows many stupid results. (3) In a quick test, Lulu did not offer Tolkein's The Hobbit or Hemingway's The Sun Alo Rises -- which are available at Amazon and B&N.]

Customers can expect an even easier to use Lulu.com with new capabilities such as registration-less checkout, faster browsing times, enhanced international language and currency support, improved address validation, and customizable marketing tools for authors -- adding to Lulu.com's already free publishing services. [NOT free if you want any actual books to be sold]

"Lulu and Elastic Path have made publishing and buying quick and easy," says Matt Dion, Vice President of Marketing for Elastic Path. "Lulu is a great example [Bullshit] of an innovative company providing their customers with a compelling value proposition,[Bullshit] cementing Lulu's leadership position in the publishing technology arena for years to come." [Bullshit]

The new platform creates an entirely new infrastructure for Lulu.com to build upon, which greatly increases the speed at which the company can release new features and updates in the future to better equip customers with the tools they need, when they need them. One example being Lulu.com's soon to be available ecommerce APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces), which enable businesses and publishers to build Lulu.com and Elastic Path's ecommerce tools into their own branded websites -- absolutely free. [Why would a publisher want to?]

With just a few clicks of a button, anyone can upload content to Lulu once, and sell it through a global network of premier retail channels as a print book or eBook -- all for free. [Bullshit.] Creators set their own price for their titles and keep up to 90 percent of the profit whenever their works sell. Learn more about self-publishing and the new and improved Lulu.com by visiting, http://www.lulu.com/ .


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Americans can get confused writing for Canadians, unless they write in French

The dual influence of British and American spelling on Canadian English can make life difficult for Canadian writers, and for Americans writing for Canadian readers.

Canadians use standard British spelling for certain words (axe, cheque), and use American spelling for others (connection, tire), and will use either version for other words (programme and program, labour and labor, neighbour and neighbor).

It's important to be consistent so you don't look silly and confuse your readers.

Set up your own style manual (just a list, really), and stick to it. Don't mix "neighbour" with "labor," for example. Choose one pattern or the other and don't vary.

A Canadian dictionary might help, too (is there such a thing?). Word processor spell-checkers (chequers?) may not be much help. My MS Word rejects Brit spelling, and there doesn't seem to be a Canadian or British "language pack" available. I could tell my PC to accept "programme" and "neighbour," but that would not make it reject "program" and "neighbor." To be safe, I'd probably have to search for all of the offending Americanisms and change them.

Or, I can just keep writing in American and not worry about the smaller countries that speak sort-of the same language. I don't freak out when I encounter British spelling. "Programme" is not as disconcerting as having to convert pounds and shillings.

(Thanks to Dorothy Turner for her work published by the University of Ottawa)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Autographs & inscriptions


I personally have never been an autograph collector, but I do have a few autographed books on my shelves which I got by accident. Lots of people like autographs, apparently to prove or imply that they were once in the same place as a famous person. If readers put you in the same category as Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe or John Lennon, play along with it — no matter how much your wrist hurts.

If you are selling your books from your own website, competing with other booksellers that underprice you, you may be able to justify your price by including your signature and maybe an inscription.

Autographs (just your name) and inscriptions (a comment plus your name) can go on the flyleaf (a thicker-than-normal blank right page just inside the front cover in a hardcover book) or on the half title ("bastard title") or title page; so always leave adequate “white space” up front.

I've never done a formal signing, but I do sell (and sometimes give) books with inscriptions. I try to write something that relates to the book and/or the recipient. For my books on telecommunications, I often write "I hope you never get a wrong number." When a humorous book goes to a doctor, I write "laughter is the best medicine." When my memoir goes to people I know nothing about, I often write "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." Long inscriptions are probably wrong if you have 200 people lined up in a bookstore, but are fine if you are sending out one or two copies with no time pressure.

Here's some good advice about book signings from publishing expert Dick Margulis:

  1. Find a black-ink pen that you really like to write with. It should not be such a fine point that you risk snagging on the surface of the paper and ripping it. It should not be an ink that bleeds through the page. It should allow for a smooth, fluid, comfortable motion with little pressure. Buy a box of them. (Note from Michael: I like Sarasa 0.7 and Pilot Precise V7 pens.)
  2. You do not need to use your real, legal signature. Devise a brief, casual signature (just your first name is usually fine, and legibility is not necessary) that you can turn out consistently and quickly while looking at the person for whom you are signing (rather than at the page). Bigger is better than smaller. Practice until it's comfortable.
  3. Keep your wrist straight (to prevent injury). Move your arm from your shoulder, not from your elbow (larger muscles in your upper arm than in your forearm).
  4. Warm up beforehand. Stand up. Do whatever stretches and rotations you would normally do to relax your neck and shoulders. Let your arms hang loosely for your shoulders and wiggle them, paying particular attention to keeping your hands loose.
  5. Take breaks. Stand up and shake out your arms again.
  6. After the session, go to your hotel room and ice your elbow and shoulder for twenty minutes before you agree to meet anyone for dinner.
  7. If only five people show up, ignore everything above, because it's overkill in that situation.

(Back to Michael:) any time you sign or send a book, stick in three to six business cards that show the book cover and "at Amazon and B&N" or your website address if you prefer to sell directly. Make it easy for happy customers to recommend the book to others. While some of the cards may be used as bookmarks, crumb sweepers or be thrown away, I assume that some will be passed on to potential purchasers.

I get my cards from VistaPrint, a major maker of business cards and other printed products for businesses which I've been buying from for many years. For the card shown here, I uploaded a TIF image copied from the PDF of my cover. The book is 6 x 9 inches, and fits fine on the business card with a little white space above and below the cover image for promotional copy.

The price was just $25 for 1500 cards -- less than two cents each with rush shipping. If you spend a little more, you can have VistaPrint use the space on the back to print some blurbs from readers or reviewers who like the book.

My wife and I carry the cards around to give to possible "customers." Marilyn has turned out to be an excellent salesperson. She motivated our dentist to order a copy from Amazon and I signed it for him when I had my teeth cleaned. My podiatrist, however, asked for a freebie. I gave it to him and he displays it in his office. So does my urologist. Nice.



(Gingrich photo from WashingtonPost.com. Thanks.) 

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To be believed, scammers need better English


  1. This notification is from the Kirkland department, your car has been pictured while crossing on the red light. We're testing the automatical identification system and the system of issuing fines, so please have a look at the picture in attachment and confirm whether this car is yours or no.
  2. My name is Mrs Yetunde Owolabi from Repulic of Benin, I gave birth to three plates, 3 children at a time after the death my husband on 18th of June 2011 by auto car accident. Already we have received 5 children from God, right now I can’t take care of them so I have decided to give them out for adoption, if you are interested let me know, I am not selling them but you will only pay for adoption fees to the ministry in concern and the Lawyer will legalized all the relevant documents and the baby will become legally yours.
  3. Dear sales, i want to place an order in your store,and i will like to know if you ship to JAPAN and my method of payment will be credit card. So please let me know if you can assist me with the order ,And please do not forget to include your web page in your replying back to my mail.I will await your prompt response as soon as you receive this mail
  4. Greetings from Ocean Views Inc. My name is Joseph Baldwin the CEO of the company. i will like to place order on some products in your company,but i would like to know if you ship to Auckland,New Zealand and also do you accept Visa or Master card as method of payment? Please do not forget to include your web page in your replying back to my message and get back to me as fast as possible so that i can let you know the product i would like to order. Please email me back with your updated website.
  5. This mail is to make inquiry on the below question. I want to place an order from you. I know the difficulties encountered when shipping internationally, But thatwill not be a problem because i am registered with a shipping company whom i have used severally without any delay nor problems with my goods. Before i place this order, i want you to notify me if i am able to place the order and most important: If i can make payment with my credit cards Visa/Mc (Issued in the United States) because that is the only way we are set for payment now without no delay. I don't place online orders ,can i e-mail my ORDER needed then you can give me a quote here and ? Please Clarify. Looking forward to your swift response then we can proceed further as soon as
  6. I Am George Peter from Houston-Texas and I will want you to send me your WEBSITE so that i can view your products or send me your products list if you do not have a website.Kindly get back to me with your Website or products list so that i can choose product to order for.Also let me know your acceptable credit cards for the payment i.evisa,master,discovery etc. Get Back To Me Soonest on my email.
  7. We are unable to process your tax return. We recived your tax return. However, we are unable to process the return as field. Our records indicate that the person identifiedas the primary taxpayer or spouse on the tax return did not provided all the required documents shown on the tax form.
  8. My Name is Clark Kent and I will like to know whether you carry (Garbage Disposer ) in stock for sale. If yes, email me back each size and with the prices of (1) attached to it so that i will let you know the size and quantity i will be ordering.... More over I will like to know whether you do accept credit card as the method of payment....
  9. Hello, My name is MORGAN BILL, I want to order some product items from your store to my below address in Cyprus but before i proceed, i will like to confirm the type of credit card you accept as payment (VISA OR MASTER CARD) and if you can ship to the below address. Please let me know asap, so i can proceed with my request.
(Shirt from Zazzle.com)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Some thoughts about marketing books

On a Linkedin forum for writers, B.C.B. said, "I just need help deciding where and how to advertise online."

My response (slightly modified here):


For a nonfiction book, Google's AdWords can be effective and efficient, appealing to potential customers searching for such topics as "Thomas Jefferson" or "beer brewing."  You want to appeal to people interested in a topic, even if they're not necessarily shoppping for a book.

OTOH, advertising fiction would probably be extremely ineffective and inefficient if you try topic-based ads for "novel," "crime novel" or "teenage vampire sex."

Google's AdSense is more expensive than AdWords, but can put bigger ads in front of bigger audiences. It places ads on many websites, but not on the Google search site. It can display ads (1) related to the content of a page, (2) the demographics, market segment, geographic location, or URL, (3) website users' interests and previous interactions with an advertiser.

You can also negotiate to pay for ads on specific websites and blogs which are likely to attract potential customers for your book. If you have your own website or a blog or forum related to your book subject, naturally they should advertise your books. I do this with my books about telecommunications.



Book ads that are inserted on webpages without being inserted because of searching or site visits or some other characteristic (i.e., not AdSense or similar ads) could quickly bankrupt you. Big companies with a wide variety of customers can advertise on lots of websites. Citibank advertises on the Time magazine site, but you probably can't afford to. You probably can't advertise on the MTV site like Chevrolet does, either.

Concentrate on press releases, reviews and online media. Get your name and book into comments on lots of blogs and news websites. Even if you are commenting on an article about Santorum or pizza on the NY Times website, your "signature" should mention and briefly describe your book. E.g., "author of Failed Ford -- the story of the Edsel."

You can create a press release or an online comment to help you "hitchhike" on a popular author's book or a related topic, so people searching for "Sarah Palin" or "senior prom" may find you.

The web has robots that search for key words and phrases and may provide added exposure for you and your book. One of my books was mentioned in "Japan Diaper News" because a reviewer said it is so funny that it will make you pee in your pants. Another robotic website specializing in Cuban politics mentioned one of my books because of a casual mention of the Bay of Pigs in something I wrote.  Even irrelevant websites can improve your visibility and the ranking of your own website or blog.

Word-of-mouth is very important. Sometimes it seems like I sell one book at a time, but that one sale can lead to many more (for a good book).

Be prepared to give away at least several dozen books -- both at the beginning and over the life of the book. These are not just for book reviewers, but for INFLUENCERS with whom you share some bond either personally or because of the book, and who might recommend your book online or on radio or TV.

If you can't motivate a talk radio superstar or his or her producer, try pitching the second banana or call screener who may influence the boss.

Look for reasons to promote your book based on the calendar or appropriate news events such as a war, anniversary, holiday, divorce or death.

Mention your book in everything you write online, and to anyone you meet in "real life" who might become a reader -- even people on a supermarket line near you or next to you on an airplane. Listen to other people's conversations or notice what they are carrying or buying to provide a reason to talk. If there is no clue, you can always start with the weather. A smile will help.

Write reviews of books that appeal to your audience -- and mention your book.


Always have business cards with you that show your book title and tell where it's available. I insert about six cards in every book I send out. I get them from VistaPrint.com. I also insert cards in packages that my phone equipment company sends out.

An author can't afford to be timid. If you're reluctant to toot your own horn, you'll have to hire someone to toot for you -- and hired tooters may not understand your book or share your passion.

My Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)  has sold over 2,000 copies. That's pretty amazing for a memoir by a non-celebrity, but it takes a lot of work to sell that many.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Why would anyone order from Biblio?

(left click to enlarge for easier reading)

Biblio.com says it is "one of the world’s leading sources for textbooks, used books, and rare books. Established in 2003 in Asheville, NC, Biblio.com has grown to become one of the largest global book marketplaces, with over 50 million books for sale from over 5,000 booksellers in countries around the world. Biblio.com is wholly owned and operated by Biblio, Inc., a privately held company with a commitment to a triple bottom line, in part through its environmental program, Ecosend, and its work with Biblio Charitable Works, Inc."

While the company may be good for the planet, it doesn't seem to be good for its customers.

The illustration above shows the listing for the hardcover edition of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults).
  • Amazon sells it for $18.95, with immediate shipping (which is often free).
  • Barnes & Noble sells it for $18.95, with shipping likely within 24 hours for $3.99.
  • Biblio sells it for $30, plus $15 for shipping, which can take 15 to 30 days.
This particular book doesn't seem to be a fluke. I checked about a dozen books and all but one is grossly overpriced (by $10 - $15) at Biblio.

It's possible that Biblio may be a good source for rare books, but if you are looking for a book that's available elsewhere, you should probably buy it elsewhere.

(Strangely, the listing for my book indicates that it is being sold by a bookseller in Japan, but it is being shipped from Tennessee. "UPS Ground" shipping from Tennessee to me in Connecticut should not cost $30 or take 30 days.)


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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Borat-like publishing advice

Although the following sounds like it was written by Borat  (Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan), it actually comes from Erich Duncan. Erich probably should not be giving advice about publishing -- at least not in English.

Just how with Select a Self Publishing Hit

For brand-new writers without agency representation, it has become increasingly hard with break into main publishing houses. As more and additionally more editors become uneager with take chances on untried skills, authors tend to be turning with regard to better numbers toward the actual self-publishing path. Not just does this particular give them better control over the actual completed product and additionally its pricing, it additionally invites them with participate on to a better degree with regard to the creative (and additionally aggressive) marketing of their titles. Here tend to be a number of methods on exactly what to take into account with regard to choosing the actual self-publishing entity that is right for a project.

Within the example that your needs will actually need to be able to economize much more with regard to the event that shopping from the internet try using barnes & noble promo code.

1)Determine how much time your needs can reasonably commit with the actual self-publishing process once a book is completed. While the actual turnaround at multiple of today’s self-publishing companies is very fast once you possess submitted a material, it’s going with take a a good deal of legwork on your own piece with promote its launch, solicit book reviews, do podcast interviews and additionally give talks.

2)Define a target market for the actual book. The particular amount of money and additionally time your needs program with invest is based on regardless of whether your needs program with give the actual book away with friends and additionally relatives because sentimental keepsakes, make use of with regard to combination alongside a great ongoing workshop and / or class that you are teaching, and / or take it on to a broader mass media system.

3)Assess that self-publishing business is going to give your needs the actual best contract based on the projected amount of duplicates your needs want to market plus the in-house distribution mechanism with regard to put (i.e., Amazon, Ingram, Barnes and additionally Noble, etc.).

4)Research the actual various pricing packages granted through various self-publishing companies. Various of them, by way of example, is going to publish a book at no charge but yet the actual completed product is going to probably be of inferior high quality and additionally make use of generic covers. A few is going to provide titles only with regard to a great ebook/downloadable formatting while others provide choices for hardcover, softcover and additionally sound versions (see Resources below).

5)Determine regardless of whether the actual companies assign ISBN numbers, make the books accessible through main distribution channels, and additionally provide ongoing creator support/resources without additional charge.

6)Visit author talk rooms and additionally solicit feedback from fellow authors whom possess gone the actual self-publishing path. Familiarize yourself alongside sites for instance Preditors and additionally Editors that delivers comprehensive scuttlebutt on publishing companies that will not be worth a time and additionally cash (see Resources below).

7)Order sample titles for review once you possess narrowed down a list of self-publishers with three and / or four and additionally compare their respective high quality with regard to terms of size, cover design, layout, paper and additionally binding. Don’t be shy regarding asking queries that will assist your needs make a great informed choice.

8)Compare the actual various bills associated alongside set-up, proofreading and additionally modifying services, visual design/photo uploads for covers, etc. Should you program with work modifying and additionally design jobs yourself, your needs can conserve a a good deal of cash.

9)Examine the actual pricing and additionally royalty structure of each self-publishing package. Conventional publishers regularly never exceed a 10 % royalty. Alongside self-publishers, however, the actual price tag that your needs set for a book (based found on the page size and additionally format) put together alongside the discount your needs provide with bookstores can easily cause a royalty because high because 65 %.

10)Read the actual fine print of the self-publishing contract with ensure that you are retaining every one of the rights because the actual creator and additionally you’re not locking yourself into a great inextricable relationship with regard to the event your needs choose to withdraw the actual book and / or market it on to a traditional publisher.

Contrary with prevalent belief, a conventional publishing apartment isn’t going with do that much buzz on your own brand-new book should you tend to be a genre and / or mid-list author; their focus is going to be found on the main names that tend to be already creating them cash. Accordingly, editors is going to regularly ask how much your needs program with participate with regard to the marketing of the book if they even choose to buy it. If you are going to be performing that hard with regard to promotions anyway, the benefit of controlling your product and additionally pricing structure through self-publishing additionally ensures that your book is accessible for purchase longer than it would certainly if put with regard to bookstores by a conventional publisher. (The particular average lifespan on a bookstore shelf for genre and additionally mid-list books by beginners is just regarding 6 weeks unless of course there’s a very high demand for it.)

While a conventional publisher is going to cover the actual expense of copyediting, layout and additionally cover designs and additionally piece of the total production cost, they additionally remove control of the layout and additionally design from the hands of the authors. Within many instances, they can easily even change the actual title of the book without the actual author’s permission. This isn’t going with result if you are the actual you who’s calling all of the shots.

The particular higher the actual discount your needs make accessible with bookstores, the actual more receptive they is with carrying a title. If a focus is primarily going to be online sales and additionally book fairs, bookstore discounts aren’t going to be because significant a factor with your needs.

Should you don’t already possess you, develop an url with help buzz a brand-new title. This could consist of a photo of the cover, a short synopsis, a great excerpt, and additionally reviews.

Set up a great account through PayPal thus that you can process orders online.

Be wary of self-publishers whose right discount contract is based on your own buying 100 plus duplicates of the title yourself and additionally taking responsibility for storing them and additionally delivery them out with consumers. Unless of course your needs teach classes and / or conduct workshops where the actual book is necessary reading for participants, selling 100 plus duplicates on your own own is going to be tough.

If a self-publisher is just going with make a book accessible through its own web pages, a book isn’t going with receive the actual exposure it deserves.

(Yes, I know that this word salad was probably assembled by a computer to attract search engine traffic, and that Erich Duncan may not exist.)


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